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I read a sentence containing the word thy, but I cannot find the meaning of that word.

Is it older English, or is it still used in contemporary English today?

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ecclesia.org/truth/thou.html –  stacker Aug 16 '10 at 20:55
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Linkrot happens. Full answers are much better than links (though adding a link to your source is a good idea). –  user362 Aug 16 '10 at 21:29
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I would be interested: what dictionary you looked in that did not have this word? –  GEdgar May 27 '12 at 23:42

7 Answers 7

up vote 34 down vote accepted

"Thy" is an English word that means "your" in the second person singular.

English used to have a distinction between singular and plural in the second person, such that we had the following:

  • Singular: thou, thee, thy
  • Plural: ye, you, your

Nowadays, we just have "you" and "your" in place of those six distinct words (which is why in nonstandard English, we have things like "y'all" or "youse" to distinguish 2nd-person plural from 2nd-person singular).

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There's also "thine" (= yours) as in "The burden is thine to bear". According to Wikipedia, "thine" may even be used in place of "thy" if the next word begins with a vowel ("thine eyes") en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thou#cite_note-thine-3 –  Martin Aug 16 '10 at 22:09
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The word actually belongs to what I would describe as archaic English, or more technically, 'Middle English'. Admittedly you didn't capitalise 'old', but 'Old English' typically refers to English during the Anglo-Saxon period. –  Noldorin Aug 17 '10 at 8:29
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What you refer to as "archaic English" is probably Early Modern English, rather than Middle English. –  Colin Fine Aug 17 '10 at 10:21
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@Claudiu: Actually it is just that Martin's description is missing some detail. Thy and thine patterned in the same way as my and mine do. We say mine when there is no noun phrase that the possessive pronoun directly modifies ("it's my car" but "it's mine"). It is just that there was an additional rule that if there is a noun phrase being modified that begins with a vowel, then the thine/mine form is used (so, it was true for my as well as thy. "The burden is thine to bear" does not modify a noun phrase, but "thine own self" does modify a noun phrase ("own self"). –  Kosmonaut Oct 14 '10 at 22:42
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@Malvolio: Actually, it was that the 2nd-person plural became the formal‌​. So, the distinction was, was, was singular/plural. –  Kosmonaut Apr 12 '11 at 17:10

I believe it's still used in parts of Yorkshire.

  • I me my mine
  • Thou thee thy thine (You you your yours)
  • He him his his
  • She her her hers
  • We us our ours
  • Ye you your yours (You you your yours)
  • They them their theirs
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It is - Yorkshire is a much more precise language than southern, so is able to handle specific singlular/plural words for you and yours –  mgb Mar 27 '11 at 20:13

Basically, it means "your".

If you want more detailed definition, check on the Merriam-Webster site:

archaic : of or relating to thee or thyself especially as possessor or agent or as object of an action —used especially in ecclesiastical or literary language and sometimes by Friends especially among themselves

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NB: “Friends” is code for Quakers, who use(d) “thee” as a subject form. –  tchrist May 27 '12 at 22:17

Archaic.

From dictionary.com.

thy

–pronoun

the possessive case of thou (used as an attributive adjective before a noun beginning with a consonant sound): thy table.

thou

–pronoun

  1. Archaic (except in some elevated or ecclesiastical prose) . the personal pronoun of the second person singular in the nominative case (used to denote the person or thing addressed): Thou shalt not kill.
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‘Thy’ is an old word meaning ‘your’ that was used for talking or writing to one person.

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Not really answering the question, but adding some cultural context.

One (maybe the only) place most people meet these words nowadays is in old hymns:

  • Thine be the glory
  • Great is thy faithfulness
  • How great thou art
  • Just a closer walk with thee
  • Oh come all ye faithful
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It's all over the King James Version of the Bible (1611). –  Jared Updike Oct 25 '10 at 22:38
    
@Jared Updike, indeed, though I suspect that that falls outside the 'most people meet' category :) –  Benjol Oct 26 '10 at 4:46
    
Thine be the glory, surely. –  TRiG Dec 6 '10 at 19:01
    
@TRiG, well spotted, thank you. –  Benjol Dec 7 '10 at 5:42
    
Psalm 23:4 is very often heard on tv and in films using thy instead of the more modern your: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff –  mplungjan Feb 10 '11 at 9:15

The OED has a lot to say about thou, pron and . Here is just a very small bit of that:

History of use of forms

In Old English, the inherited distinctive 2nd singular forms (including the other members of that paradigm, i.e. thee pron., thine adj. and pron., thy adj.) were in regular use independently of register or the status of the addressee. In Middle English they were gradually superseded by the plural ye, you, your, yours, which occurred with singular reference originally for reasons of showing respect, deference, or formality, but gradually became the usual forms in the standard language. On the details of this process see discussion at you pron., adj., and n. Although still occurring in religious contexts (in prayers or hymns addressing God) and in archaic language, later use of the th- forms in ordinary speech has been largely restricted to regional English (now chiefly in the north of England). The forms were formerly also employed by Quakers in addressing a single person as a mark of equality, a feature which had largely fallen out of use by the 20th century.

While use of thee pron. as subject form occurs early and is frequent in regional use (see thee pron. II.), use of thou pron. as object form is rare; Eng. Dial. Dict. records use (as a stressed form) in northern regional English, Surv. Eng. Dial. records use in Wiltshire, and Sc. National Dict. records use in Orkney.

Is also says:

Form history

As with other pronouns, the form history of this word is affected by its frequent position in low stress and the development of unstressed beside stressed variants; compare the early development of proclitic and enclitic forms (see Forms 2a, 2b). It is assumed that in Old English þ—ᵗ the length of the vowel depended on the degree of stress in the sentence (compare R. M. Hogg Gram. Old Eng. (1992) I. §5.198). The modern standard diphthongal pronunciation (/ðaʊ/) reflects a stressed form; compare Middle English þuu, þou (see Forms 1α). Regional forms, on the other hand, often reflect a reduced vowel (compare e.g. early modern English and regional tha); such reduction is seen earliest in the Old English enclitic forms -to, -ðo (see Forms 2a).

The modern standard voiced pronunciation of the initial consonant reflects late Middle English lenition of the originally voiceless dental fricative in unstressed words (also found in other pronouns, e.g. this pron. and adj., that pron.¹).

Original voicelessness is reflected by forms with initial t- (see Forms 2β), which occur even when preceded by voiced consonants. Such forms originally arose by assimilation to preceding dental stops (d, t) or dissimilation from preceding sibilant fricative (s), and accordingly occur especially when the forms are enclitic, where often the verbal endings -s , -t , -st preceded them (see Forms 2a, and compare discussion at T n.⁷). In Middle English, such spellings are particularly frequent after d or t in texts of the 13th cent. and grow less frequent with standardization.

(Insular Scots (now chiefly Shetland) du, doo, on the other hand, shows the influence of Norn.)

Probably the the most important part of all that is that in modern times it is restricted to regional use in the north of England, and perhaps in Orkney. It still gets used for other things, though.

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